Everyone in the workplace is important, says Bursar at Clarendon College, Theda Falconer Brooks, who has served in the education sector for 36 years.
Using this as a principle, according to Mrs. Brooks, made all the difference in her work etiquette, management, and success over the years.
“Everyone on the ground is important… no matter how you look at them. I love when people work together, I love a happy office [and] a happy staff. We spend eight hours of our day [at work]… . We are more family here than we are at home,” she tells JIS News.
Mrs. Brooks was recently conferred with the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service, during the National Honours and Awards ceremony, held at King’s House in Kingston.
She says that taking on the role of Bursar at the College on October 1, 1996, came with its own challenges, because the post was traditionally occupied by males.
“[On my first day,] I walked in [but] I was not yet introduced to the staff, and I heard one of the auxiliary men say, ‘it’s a female bursar coming but [she] can’t work. It won’t work out’,” she tells JIS News.
Rather than becoming discouraged, Mrs. Brooks says she reassured the staff that she was open to treating everyone fairly, while developing a positive working environment.
“I give people a chance to speak. [At the time,] I was younger than 90 per cent of them,” she notes.
Over the years, Mrs. Brooks says some of her best relationships were formed with staff members, including those who initially doubted her capabilities.
“I learned to work with people and listen to everybody, no matter who you are. I learn from the auxiliary [staff], and I learn from the ladies in the office. I didn’t go and exert myself; I watched how everything operated,” she says.
Her time at Clarendon College began after she exited her post as a clerical assistant at Sidney Pagon High school in St. Elizabeth.
“When I came here [Clarendon College] there were 2,025 students with a staff of 95. So, it’s a bigger school in comparison to 25 teachers and 270 students [at Sidney Pagon High]… but challenges do not really mean much to me. I love them,” she says.
Hailing from the parish of St. Elizabeth, she says as a young adult, her time at Sidney Pagon exposed her to the different roles in the school system.
“You were not there [just] as a secretary, typist or as a clerical person; you got the opportunity [to learn about other areas],” she notes.
That experience enhanced her knowledge about the role of a bursar before she was appointed to the post.
“The role of a bursar takes in every known thing… from being a groundsman to being the financial controller of the school. You’re called upon for everything. You have to balance everything,” she points out.
Nurturing a spirit of excellence in her work ethic is a trait Mrs. Brooks encouraged her staff to embrace.
She says that the times when this was not upheld, despite numerous attempts to consult with the workers, “the principal will now say, bursar you need to let them feel it in their pocket [and] that is a harder part”.
While noting that every category of staff comes with individual challenges, Mrs. Brooks says she often looks for the good in every situation, while embracing a “cheerful spirit”.
“I think that I am a reserved person with a difference because I have persons who I’ve [only spoken] to on the phone and we develop relationships that you would never believe. So, I want to be remembered as the bursar everybody is able to get along with,” she tells JIS News.